End of life care is primarily focused on making your loved one feel as comfortable as possible. Although medication is still an integral part of their daily regimen in order to control pain and keep other symptoms in check, the inevitable reality is that they are entering the final chapter of their life which eventually ends in death. Many people find it difficult to broach this subject with family members. However, if handled with love, compassion and sensitivity, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that most seniors already have definitive thoughts on the subject and are hesitant themselves to bring it up out of concern for not causing family members additional stress and sadness during this challenging phase of the life cycle.
Important topics of discussion surrounding end of life issues include the level of treatment and potential procedures in terms of what your loved one does or does not want done in order to prolong their life. In addition, most seniors have specific wishes regarding the choice to die at home or in a professionally staffed facility such as a hospital or hospice.
From a legal perspective, advance health care directives are imperative to ensure that doctors, health care providers and family members are all on the same page when the time comes to make these decisions. Once you all have considered options and made some specific decisions, it is highly recommended that these wishes are formalized in writing through the use of proper documents which should then be distributed to applicable family members and your loved one’s main doctors.
Advance directives are specific to the state in which your loved one resides and/or is receiving treatment. Doctors and hospital staff members are quite familiar with this aspect of patient care and should be able to assist you in getting the proper templates for completing such. Generally speaking, most States recognize the following main types of directives:
Living Will – describes the types of medical treatments your loved one wants or does not want if they become incapacitated. It can be as specific or general as they see fit.
Durable Power of Attorney – sometimes referred to as a health care proxy, which allows your loved one to designate a person to make health care treatment decisions for them if they cannot do it themselves.
Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order – directs what measures should or should not be taken in the event of either cardiac or respiratory arrest
Another important topic of discussion is funeral wishes and arrangements in accordance with your loved one’s desires. According to the Federal Trade Commission, funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make, citing the current cost for a traditional funeral including a casket and vault ranging from approximately $6,000 to $10,000 depending upon how elaborate and well publicized they wish it to be. Current trending indicated that more and more people are now planning their own funerals in order to alleviate their family members from this major responsibility. Pre-Need counseling is readily available from nonprofit memorial societies as well as through funeral homes and is a good idea to investigate prior to actually needed their services. Many families also consider this end of life area an extension of the will and estate planning process which is an excellent way to view the inevitable when everyone is more clear headed. The FTC offers a wonderful information-packed guidebook on this important topic, entitled “Funerals: A Consumer Guide,” available for download free of charge at the following location: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0056-funerals.pdf
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